Jim Harbaugh, Michigan Offer Gives Leverage in NFL Negotiations


Yesterday’s report that Jim Harbaugh is being offered a deal in value of $48 million sent shockwaves around the football world as the University of Michigan are willing to make the current San Francisco 49ers to head coach the highest paid in football in order to convince him to go back to the college game from the NFL. Presently Harbaugh makes around $5 million per year from the 49ers, so the amount leaked to the media being offered by Michigan gives the head coach plenty of leverage.

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In fact, the last time Harbaugh was looking for a coaching contract the Wolverines were used as leverage for a new deal, reportedly offering Harbaugh big money that he in turn used to convince San Francisco owner Jed York to open up his wallet a bit further to get a more enticing deal. Something that could be happening now as there are a large number of NFL owners in the race along with Michigan that can give Harbaugh the financial security he needs while offering the chance to win the Super Bowl that he desperately desires.

According to ProFootballTalk in 2011, Harbaugh rejected an offer from his alma matter in Ann Arbor that would have paid him $5.2 million a season at the time. Instead, Harbaugh took an NFL offer $5 million per year from the 49ers, who originally hoped to get Harbaugh for $4 million to $4.5 million per season. PFT indicated that without the Michigan offer to use in negotiations, it would have been difficult for Harbaugh to shake $5 million per year from the Niners.

The leverage angle gets even more interesting when you consider that while NFL head coaches haven’t hit the threshold of money that Michigan are offering Harbaugh, the fact is that owners can easily afford it just as easily as a big collegiate football program like Michigan. Raiders owner Mark Davis has paid $9 million for Carson Palmer to play for another team while also writing checks filled with dead money to several other former Raiders along with the $8 million paid for Matt Schaub to hold Sebastian Janikowski field goals as a backup so the concept that Michigan can outbid a willing NFL owner is not there.

There have been plenty of reports that have documented Harbaugh’s desire to stay in the NFL just as there have been reports coming out of Ann Arbor that Harbaugh would consider taking the Wolverines big payday to come back “home” after living and coaching in California for over a decade. Plenty of romanticism is out there with Wolverines fans and those who write for the rabid Michigan faithful feeling that there is hope that Harbaugh will come to the school where he once quarterbacked big wins over Ohio State to lead them back to glory.

Reports came out that Harbaugh is “softening” on his stance with Michigan according to Mike Garafolo of Fox Sports with the big offer on the table, so there is good reason for that, however with the initial reports coming out in NFL and Bay Area circles that many around Harbaugh personally believe that he wishes to stay in the NFL the victory party in Ann Arbor shouldn’t be started just quite yet.

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With history on the side of Harbaugh using his former school for leverage in his last contract negotiations, this could all be a shrewd ploy to get more money out of Raiders owner Mark Davis, or another NFL owner who wants to bring themselves into the two horse race between California and Michigan in the heart of the head coach. Coaching in California ever since Al Davis gave him his first coaching job, Harbaugh has just as many ties to the state and the Raiders than he does to Ann Arbor where he had a great collegiate career. If Mark Davis is willing to pay the price, something that an NFL owner that hands out contracts like McDonalds hands out Big Macs can do, Michigan may not be able to entice Harbaugh with a big contract as easily as they may think.